It's been a tough road for the Northeast B.C. & Yukon Trackers these days, as the team hasn't won in its past 12 games of league and tournament play.
Making things worse is the fact that most of these games have been played on the road, a trend that will continue this weekend as the Midget team travels to Edmonton for the second weekend in a row.
"The negative thing is these kids have been away a lot. They're trying to balance jobs, personal relationships, school and balance all that," said Trackers' assistant coach Shawn Brinsky. "Once we get through this [long road trip part of the season] the kids can prepare for their games sleeping in their own beds and go through their personal routines at home that give them success.
"When you're on the road so much it's a growth opportunity, but it also takes its toll."
Most recently the Trackers went 0-3 last weekend when they faced the Camrose Vikings, the Leduc Roughnecks and the Sturgeon Mustangs. They lost to Camrose 10-1, had a good game in Leduc, but still saw a 5-2 loss then lost 7-5 against the Mustangs.
"You can look at the glass as half full or half empty," Brinsky said. "This weekend, the first game was a bad game. There were lots of things that led to that, mostly poor play on our behalf. It was a long, extremely cold trip and there were delays with mechanical issues with the bus. When we got there we just weren't ready to play and the results showed on the board."
The Trackers happened to video some of the game, which they reviewed as a team. The results of watching their own game were positive and carried over into Saturday's game against Leduc.
"Some of the things we addressed that we needed fixing, we fixed, so [the video] gave the players insight. Maybe some individuals were in denial as to what they were doing versus what they thought they were doing. That night we saw some players making better decisions or utilizing skills in a way that gave them success," Brinsky said.
"Unfortunately we found ourselves down three goals quite quickly. It's hard to pinpoint why but we made a goaltending change early, restarted the script and as the game progressed we played very well. We did a lot of things right and out-chanced the other team."
But there was some questionable officiating to boot, Brinsky said, which made it harder on the slumping Trackers, who were working hard to win.
"It was tough on them because they were trying hard and doing things right, yet they had another obstacle to overcome," he said.
"I thought they'd come back, but we just didn't have the ability to do that, and that's something we'll have to prepare our players for and that they have to prepare for themselves. There's lots of adversity in any season and that's another lesson the group needs to understand and work around."
Sunday's game, the third in three days, saw more scoring for the Trackers against the Mustangs, but more fatal mistakes that likely cost them the game like turnovers in the slot and other mistakes that led to goals.
With another string of losses on their belts, the Trackers came home with an even bigger monkey on their backs, but the coaching staff knows their team has the ability to shake it off and return to the dominant play they saw at the start of the season.
"When you're going through a slump, the psyche and confidence are fragile, so the consequences seem bigger, probably bigger than they really are. You can see it with the players," Brinsky said.
"The one thing we're fortunate of is we're blessed with a group of players who are genuinely are positive and supportive of one another. We've really emphasized that we're all on this ship together and we need to find the strength to keep each other up and push each other, but also make sure we don't start beating up on ourselves. We got into this together and we'll get out of it together."
With another daunting road trip to St. Albert ahead of the tired team, Brinsky is hoping his squad can mentally go back in time to when they were on a winning streak and leave the slump behind them.
"They know the success they've had, they know the ability they had to generate offence and it wasn't long ago we competed with some of the best Tier 1 teams in the province and beat some of them. It's just a matter of remembering that and move forward," he said. "Who knows what this weekend holds? At the end of the day we joke that sometimes if you're going through hell the key is to keep moving. I don't see any of the kids giving up or trying to bail. Everybody understands we'll get through this and I know they have the momentum and energy to make sure they get through this.
"This weekend is not going to define us."
The Trackers will get a much-deserved home weekend on Dec. 20 and 21 when they host the Strathcona Warriors for a double-header.
© Copyright Alaska Highway News